The reality of the world’s electronic waste crisis

The world is set to produce approximately 57 million metric tonnes of electronic waste (or e-waste) in 2021, which is enough to cover more than half of the earth’s surface end-to-end in smart phones. In addition, it is reported that the UK produces a shocking 133,000 tonnes of e-waste in a single month – this is equivalent in weight to 11 Shards (as in the big pointy building in London).

E-waste describes discarded electrical or electronic devices nearing the end of their “useful life”, such as TVs, stereos, mobile phones and computers. Many of these products can be reused, refurbished or recycled, while most are disposed of.

Fuelled by factors such as population growth, digitisation, upgrade culture, products with short replacement cycles and few options for repair, e-waste is increasing three times faster than the world’s population.

According to the 2020 E-waste Monitor, global e-waste will reach 74 million metric tonnes by 2030 – making it the world’s fastest-growing domestic waste stream.

If sent to landfills, e-waste can leak harmful chemicals into the soil, or if incinerated, fumes release chemicals into the air, contributing to global warming. Not only this, but everything from phones to laptops rely on precious materials to operate, which are limited resources and directly impact climate change when being extracted from the earth.

Research conducted by musicMagpie and its US brand, Decluttr, found that an alarming four in five Brits do not know what e-waste is. When given the definition, nearly a third (31 per cent) didn’t believe it damaged the environment or were unsure, while 45 per cent weren’t aware it impacted climate change.

The UK was the second biggest country producing e-waste per-capita, the report also found.

Commented Steve Oliver, CEO of musicMagpie: “Electronic waste is a problem that’s not discussed as often as it should be, however, we can all do our bit to become a part of the solution.

“While technology will always be present in consumers’ lives, it’s important that we find better ways to keep it from negatively impacting the environment. We can do this by promoting a circular economy, whereby tech device life cycles are greatly increased through recycling, refurbishment and reuse.”

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